Even though I predicted this day would come and have steeled myself against it way back on February 28, 2012, and even though his contract is on the high side of his value and would probably be regrettable by 2015, this still sucks. Jolly Old Nick Swisher is no longer a member of the New York Yankees. Allowing Russell Martin to walk stung and was bewildering. But allowing Nick Swisher to prance to Cleveland and to play on Terry Francona‘s side is downright painful. Nick Swisher was fun. He made me smile. My wife loves him and enjoyed laughing at his antics. She will personify a lot of Yankee fans today. Her disappointment will be the same as many. God save 2014 at all costs, Hal. Attaboy.
Nick Swisher as a Yankee star was one of the biggest surprises ever. He was an afterthought in the 2009 preseason for us after he came over with Kanekoa Texeira from the White Sox for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. What we were really excited about back then was Xavier Nady who came over in the season before with Damaso Marte for Russ Ohlandorf, Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata and Daniel McCutchen. Nady before 2009 was sort of the same sort of player as Swisher has been for the Yankees the last four seasons. Swisher was going to be the fourth outfielder.
But seven games into 2009 on April 14, Nady blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery. He was gone for the season. Swisher became the starting right-fielder and the rest is Yankee history. While Nady did not work out as one of Brian Cashman’s finer moments, Nick Swisher is arguably Cashman’s finest. The White Sox practically gave Swisher away after his 2008 season with that club. He hit .219 that season. But the White Sox clearly did not understand the new baseball statistics back then because Swisher was an on-base machine for the White Sox even in his bad season. He had walked 279 times in two years for Oakland and his downer season for the White Sox. He hit 81 homers in those three years. But most of us did not know our baseball math back then either. When Nady came running in with his arm all unraveled, it was a calamity.
Instead it turned into solid production for Nick Swisher for four seasons. In those four seasons, his OPS+ remained over 120. His wOBA never dipped below .360. His lowest on-base percentage in those years was .359. And after his 2009 season, he became a proficient fielder as well. I would go so far as to say that in many ways, Nick Swisher was the glue that held the Yankees’ lineup together. He did not care where he batted. He would bat second, fifth, sixth, seventh or whatever. He didn’t care. His production did not care. Many Swisher detractors say that he never hit .300 or drove in or scored a hundred runs. Oh please, are we still stuck on those numbers? Nick Swisher was a very good player for the Yankees.
How good? According to Fangraphs, his play the last four years has been worth just south of $66 million. During that period, he made just over $35 million. That is a pretty sweet deal. Betemit, Marquez and Nunez, the guys he was traded for, have been a combined major league worth of 1.3 rWAR. Swisher has been worth 11.3 rWAR as a Yankee. Fangraphs has his Yankee years at 15.3 fWAR. Either way, that is a terrific player. No, he is not elite. He’ll never be one of the top ten in the league. But, how good he has been has been understated.
Any conversation about Swisher and his days as a Yankee will forever be colored by his post seasons. Many are justifying the Yankees in this outcome because of Swisher’s futility in the playoffs. In 181 playoff appearances (he had some before his Yankee days), Swisher’s post season triple slash line is: .169/.283/.305. And yes, those are unfortunate numbers. Despite all the good he did in New York, people will point to those numbers.
What people don’t understand is that the playoffs are a random small sample event. Derek Jeter has had a full season of post season at bats and as such, they even out to his normal production numbers. If you look at Jeter’s post season record, he had some clunker post seasons too. But he had enough post seasons to balance it all out. Swisher did not. You might argue that 181 plate appearances is a large sample size, but it is not and if you break it down into four smaller subsets of sample size, Swisher’s lack of post season heroics can be a little more understood.
And there is also the old notion that it took players like Nick Swisher to get the Yankees to the post season in the first place.
But the numbers are the numbers. And they have already told a tale of a very good Yankee player who played far above his paycheck for four years. Beyond that, he was terrific with the fans and did a tremendous amount of charity work. People around the country either hate or love Nick Swisher. There are not too many in-betweens. Those who hate him see him a a DB who likes to be noticed. But many of us know Swisher as a player who really understood that baseball is a game and very few people get to play their childhood game for a living. Nick Swisher enjoys the ride. He smells the roses. He laughs. He roars. Many of us, including my wife, enjoyed the heck out of that.
I take no pleasure in being right way back in February. This has been a terrible off season for those of us who expect the Yankee brass to do its best to improve the team. Martin was not given an offer. And now Swisher was not given an offer. Two productive players, one more valuable because of his defense and the other for his all-around game. But we all know that 2014 is the new Mayan Apocalypse, right? It’s really hard to say this and to type it, but two days before Christmas, the Yankees have lost Jolly Old Nick. Take care Swish. Most of us are glad you got the paycheck you earned.